Last evening I was sitting in a hospice meeting for what are called 11-th Hour Volunteers. That is, we sit with patients who are actively dying if they are otherwise alone, or if the family needs respite from the vigil. This can be at the inpatient hospice care center, nursing homes, hospitals, or private homes. Looking around the room at the volunteers assembled — mostly people “of a certain age” and life experience — my alter life swam into consciousness among a pleasant gathering of serving souls.
Earlier in the day I learned that my adult offspring, who has been dry since a relapse at Christmastime, has been using heroin off and on for the last year. In fact, the last refocusing treatment program for his/her addiction exactly one year ago was not for alcoholism but was, in fact, for heroin use!
All day I have been reeling as dots connected: the stumbling, falling asleep behavior at times which I attributed to poor sleep; requests for $25 here and there even after he/she finally found regular employment two months ago; needing help to renew cell phone minutes for the last three months; needing rides to work when he/she didn’t have time to catch two buses.
Mom was there, supposedly helping my offspring to help him/herself. Boy, Howdy! Help him/herself to opiate abuse, that is.
In the two and a half months since Phillip Seymour Hoffman overdosed from heroin addiction of long standing, I also learned that another family member — early fifties; “good job” with a bank; married, with one grown child who is married and another graduating from high school — entered a 30-day rehab program for heroin addiction. The only reason the “good job” didn’t go away was because an excuse of “anxiety and depression” was given for the leave of absence. Indeed.
Intending to address this subject further, I made these notes in early February:
• Authorities have warned that heroin addiction is soaring and noted an uptick in the availability of the drug; AND…
• The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) has warned that people who are addicted to opioid prescription pills are now finding highly pure heroin easier and cheaper to obtain; AND
• It produces a similar, if more dangerous high because unlike with the pills, there is no way to regulate the dosage of heroin, given the undetermined purity.
Dr. Drew Pinsky, an addiction specialist with HLN (formerly the headline news channel) weighed in with this:
” Someone with opiate addiction, they are doing pushups their whole lives. And they must work on it all the time. And even working on it, there is a high probability of relapse. And, God willing, they get adequate treatment, and they re-engage in treatment, and things go well,” he said. “But often, it’s a frequently fatal condition.”
Oh, I also learned that my adult offspring suffered an overdose three months ago and had to be rushed to the hospital…
What to do with this information, which came to me from a confidential source? This knowledge could have arrived from more than one direction, so confidentiality be damned. Life is on the line. As a mother, I am bound to confront what I know of my offspring’s condition, the gravity of it, and allow my adult child to choose what action to take now that the scope of addiction is out in the open. That’s the tough work.
The lesser part is figuring out how mom is to proceed. I have not shared this knowledge with my husband, a retired sheriff (who has actively supported my adult child’s (supposed) recovery, or my offspring’s father who tends to share all with the family network. For today, I am doing what I recommend in Chapter 10, ”Taking Care of Your Precious Self” of IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU — EXCEPT WHEN IT IS: I will get myself to a support group, which for me is Al-Anon, and work the 12-Steps until I can get there. For today, I will manage my own serenity, trusting that my Higher Power is looking out for me and for my adult child. ”Where there is life, there is hope,” Chapter 1, ”Planet Paradox.”
Think I’ll go sit with a hospice patient, a sure way to kick in an “attitude of gratitude, ” Chapter 5, ”The Abyss.” Wish me luck.